Joan Dorsey
Guest columnist
Well it’s been almost a year since Gardner passed the ordinance allowing folks here in town to keep backyard chickens. Maybe I don’t travel in the right circles, but so far I don’t think I have seen or heard any complaints from the locals.
My venture in the chicken keeping venue started several years back. I came home one day, while living in Edgerton, to find 18 little fuzzy black and yellow chicks in a brooder in my garage. We were allowed a specific number, according to the amount of land we owned, and we had a couple extra because we figured we would lose several on our first try.
Our breed of choice, after much reading and asking of questions, was Barred Plymouth Rocks. Black and white striped birds. Good for meat and known to be fairly agreeable. Plus they would lay eggs almost every day when they were old enough. Nice brown, fresh eggs.
Chicks are cute for about 48 hours. Then they become little eating – and well we know what happens after they eat – machines. Little boy chickens start bumping chests and establishing a pecking order when they are very young.
Lesson # 1. Do not buy straight run chickens. These are chicks from the hatchery that haven’t been sexed. You will not get an even mix of male and female. If you want girls buy pullets. Very few mistakes there. You don’t need a rooster to have hens that lay eggs. Plus roosters aren’t allowed in town.
Lesson # 2. Chicks grow fast. They go from fuzzy to UGLY in a very short time. Nothing is as homely as a chick getting grown up feathers.
Lesson #3. They need a place to live. It has to be big enough for them to be contained inside in bad weather, and to run outside in good weather. Warm for winter, yet ventilated for hot summer nights.
Lesson #4. Clean water, clean fresh food and clean bedding at all times. Farmers don’t get a day off and if you have chickens you don’t either.
Lesson #5. You will wait five maybe six months for that first egg. It is an eternity. It ultimately depends on the breed. But the joy of finding that first one in a nest box is priceless.
We kept chickens for a number of years. Some were pets. Some followed us around and ate from our hands. We had roosters that tested our authority. Hens that pecked when you went to get eggs from the nest boxes. Assorted colors and sizes of hens. Blue, green, brown and even white eggs.
If you are considering Easter chicks or just chicks in general, do some reading. If you have kids get them involved in a 4-H poultry group. There are several around. Call the Johnson Co Extension office in Olathe for 4-H info.
Remember, with any living thing, they must be cared for every day. Whether the wind chill is -20 or it is 103 deg, they must be fed and watered. Cleaned up after and protected.
Looking back I would do it all over again.
Chickens are smart, clean if well kept and they lay the most beautiful colored eggs. You just can’t compare a fresh laid egg to what you get from a grocery store. Plus you know exactly how the bird was treated and what it was fed. Keeping chickens is well worth the effort you will have to provide.